I just received Clarion’s Forward review of Hula Ville. Cheryl Hibbard writes, “Evan offers an unusually discerning and philosophical view of people and their idiosyncrasies in Hula Ville, a collection of perceptive stories that capture the very fine line between ‘normal’ and odd. This is a book about human behavior, above all else, and it is as delightfully unconventional as the people who inhabit its pages.”
Hibbard also writes, “An astute observer of the oddities of human behavior, he populates his stories with quirky characters who think, say, and do embarrassing things over the course of their lives, albeit often not the least bit embarrassed by them. Evan conveys a sense of his own self-conscious discomfort, however, and readers, too, may find themselves wondering just what some of these characters were thinking. Evan’s fascination of the human condition and the minutiae of daily life is clear and evident. Each of his stories reveals a careful scrutiny of human behavior, from the acceptably ‘normal’ to the purely bizarre, much of it difficult for even the characters themselves to explain. The people in his stories are a diverse crew. All Southern Californians, they differ from one tale to the next, ranging from teens to the elderly, male and female. Whether describing one specific character’s own ‘private hell’ or relating another’s peculiar anxieties, Evan examines the vagaries of human existence. Desperation, dissatisfaction, and eccentricities abound, always with a ‘what if?’ unasked in the background. ‘Would have, should have, could have’ situations present themselves at every turn, and his characters rarely have a firm grasp on the difference between success and failure. Some are outrageously funny in their foibles, others pathetic, but all reveal themselves to be ‘as flagrantly human as human can be,’ however surreal their circumstances. Evan writes well, and his tales often resemble character studies as much as short stories. Readers will easily recognize many of his characters, possibly as eccentric friends or family members. Certain themes carry through stories, particularly the unstoppable passage of time, the overwhelming burden of responsibility, and the weight of regret. Dreams and goals, and the relationship of one to the other—frequently a case of recognizing the ‘right place and time’—figure prominently, and the characters often fail miserably, albeit in familiar, all too human ways. Readers will want to slap or vehemently shake a few of them and compassionately hug some of the others—these characters all will elicit some sort of reaction.
Last weekend I went to see Woody Allen’s latest movie, Blue Jasmine. I was struck by the similarities between this movie and my book Team Charlie. Both stories are about a mentally ill main character who has been thrust into the real world. While Jasmine’s state of mind is different from Charlie’s, her delusions are no less daunting. There is an excellent review of Blue Jasmine written in Entertainment Weekly by Owen Gleiberman. In his review, Gleiberman ends his piece by writing that the “greatness of Blanchett’s acting is that she shows you how madness doesn’t just destroy Jasmine but, in some terrible way, fulfills her destiny.” These same words could have been written about someone portraying Charlie’s life.
Yesterday I received the Blue Ink review of Hula Ville. They seem to have enjoyed my collection of short stories. The review states, “The stories in Mark Evan’s collection Hula Ville and Other Short Stories are varied and diverse, but share a common subject: the average person making sense of everyday life. They are familiar yet fresh; humorous but also bittersweet, with sympathetic characters any reader might recognize. Some call to mind Raymond Carver’s realism or Tobias Wolff’s memoirs.” The review goes on to say that, “Most of the stories in Hula Ville strike just the right note…these stories are a pleasure to read and should appeal to a wide audience.”
Since I’ve started writing books, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked what genre I specialize in. Well, here’s another preview that may answer that question. In my upcoming book Scowl, the main character expounds upon his opinion of the current state of the arts:
“Pasta is made of unleavened dough, most commonly wheat flour mixed with water. Other flours can be used, and eggs are often used instead of water. The dough is formed into various shapes and cooked. As you know, all these shapes have their own special names. There’s linguini, spaghetti, penne, and a multitude of other varieties, but all of them are cooked dough. You can call them by whatever names you want, but they’re still just pasta. I think this aptly describes art in America. This is the state of our music, painting, sculpture, and architecture. We are living in a world of pasta. There is no heart. We’re just mixing the same ingredients into different sizes and shapes. We label our efforts by a multitude of different names, but when you boil it all down, it’s all just another pan of pasta. Is this now making sense to you? I mean, we tap our toes to rock, country, and jazz. We read horror, romance, and science fiction novels. We mix colors and paint our canvasses realist, surrealist, and impressionist. Everything we do has a name, its own genre or style. We feel like we’re sitting at this terrific banquet of creativity, when we’re really just feasting on doughy pasta.”
I just received the Kirkus Indie review of Team Charlie. It begins, “Those voices in your head — are they symbionts or parasites? This disarming novel seeks answers.” The review goes on to summarize the story of, “Charlie Davis, a mild-mannered, middle-aged, divorced man who lives with several voices in his head.” The review states that, “Evan has a knack for set-piece ruminations such as Pluto’s disquisition on love and Kono the Hawaiian bartender’s reflections on pretense.” The review goes on to add that, “readers will eagerly help Charlie battle the voices and his loneliness. It’s hard to look away from these colorful characters running rampant in a lonely man’s mind.”
Clarion’s ForeWord review of Team Charlie is now in. Robin Edmunds writes that, “readers will not be disappointed when they follow Charlie’s journey in Mark Evan’s evocative and memorable book.” Edmunds goes on to write that, “readers will become invested in Charlie’s story,” and that, “twists and turns keep readers guessing about Charlie’s fate until the very end.” Further, Edmonds states that, “Evan’s writing is full of wit, humor, and pathos. The chattering dialogue between and among the distinct personalities in Charlie’s head is sometimes humorous. The details are evocative, and well-rounded characters abound.” I grew to love Charlie as I wrote this book, and I enjoyed writing his story. As Edmunds states, “Readers who enjoy stepping into another’s shoes and glimpsing the challenges that are faced will find Team Charlie a clever and sympathetic take on mental health.” Edmunds gives Team Charlie four stars out of five.
One of my favorite passages from Team Charlie is where Charlie’s psychiatrist explains the omnipresence of delusions:
“Delusions are neither good nor bad as a rule; they have no moral direction. They are simply a description of fact. And the fact is each and every one of us lives according to his or her own delusions, and the goal here isn’t to rid ourselves of them, but rather to pick and choose, to find the delusion that best suits us. Life is a great supermarket of delusions; you can take your cart down the aisle and take a little of this, a little of that, take whatever works for you. If something doesn’t work out you can bring it back for a refund and get something else in exchange. Anyone who tells you they don’t visit such a supermarket is either lying to you, or lying to themselves. Pick any person and ask yourself how they see the real world, how they imagine themselves within this vast confusing fabric we call reality, and you will find each and every one of them living out their own delusions.”